The 2014 quarterback class is getting a ton of hype early in the draft evaluation process. Many feel that this group features several first-round locks and a potential No. 1 pick in Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater. However, everyone needs to start tempering their expectations because this group still has a lot to prove.
This list breaks down my early quarterback ranking and some things to watch for the upcoming season.
1. Teddy Bridgewater, Louisville (Mid 1st Round)
Most of the draft community has already pegged Teddy Bridgewater as the top candidate to be the first quarterback off the board in next year’s draft. This makes sense because he possesses all the physical tools NFL teams look for in a quarterback.
Bridgewater has excellent arm strength which allows him to generate good zip on his throws and attack all parts of the field. He has excellent pocket presence and does a great job moving up in the pocket to buy himself more time.
I love the way he is committed to tying his eyes and feet while going through his progressions. This allows him to remain balanced as he scans for an open target.
Bridgewater is an excellent prospect, but he still has some holes in his game. He has a tendency to be too methodical in his decision making. As a young quarterback, he needs to learn to trust his targets and get the ball out of his hands faster.
Bridgewater also must avoid throwing off his back foot. This bad habit results in stretches of inaccuracy where the ball will sail and completely miss the target. All of the concerns surrounding Bridgewater are correctable, but it’s something to keep an eye on.
2. A.J. McCarron, Alabama (Early 2nd Round)
It’s interesting to think that A.J. McCarron, one of the most recognizable college football players in the country, isn’t getting enough love as an NFL prospect. Many look at the fact he’s surrounded by elite talent and just write off his success.
However, McCarron knows how to play the quarterback position and has a bright future at the next level. His best attributes are his experience, accuracy and ball placement. He routinely puts the ball where only his target can make a play.
Playing at Alabama has provided McCarron with plenty of experience in big-game situations. He’s accustomed to dealing with the pressure that comes with having to win every single game on the schedule or risk missing out on a chance to play for a National Championship. It’s impossible to teach the type of poise he possesses.
While McCarron doesn’t have elite arm strength, he’s able to make all the necessary throws because of his technique. He routinely steps into this throws and generates good velocity off his back foot. This allows him to make the tough throws to the sideline, deliver an accurate deep ball and squeeze passes into tight areas.
McCarron’s draft stock won’t change much throughout the draft process because he’s not the type who’ll blow people away with this athleticism. However, whoever lands him will get a quarterback with good potential.
3. David Fales, San Jose State (Late 2nd Round)
David Fales’ draft stock is going to be one of the hotter topics throughout the draft process. The opinion on him is already all over the map. His strengths include a good feel for the position, ability to consistently make sound decisions and go across the field with his progressions.
Fales can deliver an accurate football and place the ball where only his target can make a play. His poise and leadership ability are visible every time he takes the field.
However, I have a lot of questions about his overall arm strength. The ball just doesn’t explode from his hand and lacks great zip. This lack of arm strength really limits Fales’ overall upside and could keep him out of the first-round mix.
He can overcome some of these issues because he makes quick decisions. His ability to quickly decipher post-snap information is a real asset. Still, some NFL teams will be turned off by his limited arm strength.
4. Tajh Boyd, Clemson (Late 2nd Round)
Tajh Boyd is another quarterback in this class who’s getting a ton of love. Some have even rated him as the top quarterback in this draft. While Boyd has potential, he needs a lot of work before he can contribute at the next level.
Clemson’s offense asks Boyd to mainly read only one side of the field. In the NFL, he’ll need to go through his progressions and work across the field. Boyd has yet to display this trait and has a tendency to become very uncomfortable when his first read is covered.
This creates another issue as Boyd is very quick to vacate the pocket and try to pick up yards with his feet. He also reacts to this situation by forcing the ball into coverage increasing the risk of a turnover.
These issues surrounding Boyd’s game are correctable with good coaching and time. He’s still a good prospect because he possesses the strong arm and natural ability to succeed at the next level. I also love his aggressive style and the fact he isn’t afraid to attack the deep part of the field. With the right coaching and situation Boyd can develop into a very effective NFL quarterback.
That being said, if he was in this past year’s draft I would’ve still had Geno Smith ranked higher.
5. Marcus Mariota, Oregon (Late 2nd Round)
The success of quarterbacks like Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton has forced us to start looking at the quarterback position differently. Several years ago a player like Oregon’s Marcus Mariota wouldn’t have generated a ton of love in the draft community.
However, offensive coordinators are now willing to incorporate different aspects of the spread attack into their game plan. This is the reason why Mariota is a very attractive and intriguing prospect. His ability to manage the game and play an up-tempo style makes it tough for defenses to adjust.
Mariota shouldn’t be seen as just a spread quarterback, as he shows a lot of traditional quarterback traits. He’s committed to keeping a balanced stance in the pocket and tying his eyes and feet while going through progressions. Oregon’s offense consists of a lot of quick passes, but Mariota has found a way to show that he’s comfortable going across the field with his progressions.
That Oregon offense has taught Mariota how to read a defense and quickly get the ball out of his hands. This and his ability to throw his receivers open help his targets pick up yards after the catch.
The one area Mariota needs to really improve is the accuracy of his deep ball. He must work on his touch and bucket passes. It’s also important that whatever team drafts him doesn’t shoehorn him into a pro-style offense. Mariota is someone whose talents will be maximized with a unique offensive game plan.
Check back on Friday to see the rest of my 2014 Quarterback rankings!